Updated: May 19, 2022
Strengthening bottom-up governance through local initiative and innovation with an eye towards restructuring the state to make peace more likely going forward
Despite wide recognition that local authorities ought to play a major role governing Libya, no one has provided a comprehensive vision of how this should work. Moreover, no one has provided a roadmap for how these local authorities can bolster their various governance capacities so that they can take a leading role. Nevertheless, the country is increasingly decentralised as local actors take increasingly ambitious and innovative initiatives to expand the scope of their activities in response to the needs of their communities and the inability of central authorities to meet their obligations. This process, however, is highly ad-hoc and piecemeal.
For example, several municipalities—including Sūq al-Jum'a—have built mini statistics bureaus to collect data on their populations, schools, businesses, and shopping districts in order to improve decision-making. Others have sought to creatively cooperate with state-owned enterprises to improve local service delivery. In Elbeida, local authorities established a temporary arrangement with the national water company that enabled investment in a series of small projects. In Benghazi, private companies were recruited to enhance solid waste disposal. Sebha has sought the support of UNDP to provide solar panels to supply urgent electricity needs to hospital.
But, these lessons are rarely shared amongst local authorities. Indeed, the more successful locales are isolated from one another. They have no way to learn from the best practices and initiatives occurring elsewhere in the country. International efforts to help abound, but emphasise learning from abroad—undervaluing what Libyans can learn from each other— arguably the best way to quickly improve governance. Locals have the specific knowledge of what works best, and how outside knowledge can best be adapted to local needs.
The goal of this booklet is to encourage this sharing process—to establish an avenue for Libyans to learn from each other—with the idea that this interlocal cooperation is just a start. It identifies initiatives in ten areas that successfully improved local governance in
municipalities across Libya:
1. Enhancing data acquisition and analysis
Suq Aljuma, Tripoli Centre, and Janzur
2. Improving planning
Zliten, Zawia, Tripoli Centre, Suq Aljuma, Sabha, and Benghazi
3. Increasing local revenue
Zliten, Zuwara, Tripoli Centre, and Tarhuna
4. Enhancing institution-building and governance
Tripoli Centre, Abusalim, Sabha, Traghin, Hay Andalus, and Khomes
5. Promoting local business development
Janzur, Sawani, Benghazi, Misrata, Tripoli Centre, Khomes, and Zawia
6. Enhancing education
Janzur, Tarhuna, Zuwara, Tajura, Jufra, and Zliten
7. Improving solid waste disposal
Zliten, Abusalim, Sirte, Sabha, Zliten, Suq Al-Juma, Tripoli Centre, Hay Andalus and Zuwara
8. Improving water provision and sewage treatment and disposal
Ghat, Sabha, Ain Zara, and Tripoli Centre
9. Empowering women
Tripoli Centre, Ghadames, Hay Andalus, Janzur, Nalut, Edri al Shati, Garabulli, Al-Sharquia...
10. Improving community engagement
Tajura, Janzur, Sabha, Benghazi, Tripoli Centre, and Suq Al Juma
As this booklet suggests, it is vital to bolster these efforts in order to strengthen efforts to restructure the state and provide a new model of how it might succeed given Libya’s various divisions and weak national institutions. Adopting a wider bottom-up, locally-driven approach to improving governance, with institutions deeply grounded in local social forces and leadership, is more likely to succeed that current top-down efforts. But this requires more creativity and horizontal cooperation. There is a great need to learn from the local innovations examined here so that municipalities across the country can adopt more of these practices and cooperate across locales to jointly improve how the state operates.